The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
More than 63 years ago, the town of La Harpe had just an average fire department with fire protection limited to the village limits. At that time the fire truck was kept in the east half of city hall and it was known that sometimes Cecil (Teet) Sutton, City Marshall, would get to the truck first and have to go get a battery to get the truck started. Also, Wendell (Fanny) Claycomb would be one of the first to arrive.
The La Harpe Fire Protection District was organized on December 2, 1950, under the state fire district law. They now have 54 members of the district, including 50 men and 4 women. There are 30 in La Harpe, 10 in Terre Haute, and 14 in Fountain Green.
Prior to the formation of the Fire Protection District, the adjacent territory was without fire protection, for the La Harpe fire department could not answer calls outside the village limits because of insurance regulations.
The La Harpe Fire Protection District today includes all of La Harpe township, all of Fountain Green township, except a few farms along the east edge, the northern part of Hancock township, a few farms along the northwest edge of Blandinsville township in McDonough County, two-thirds of Terre Haute township in Henderson County, some of Durham township and some of Pilot Grove township. Currently, we now have mutual aid with all of Hancock County, all of McDonough County and Stronghurst. The La Harpe Fire Protection District encompasses approximately 175 square miles.
The fire trustees named in 1950 were M.F. Kern, La Harpe township as President, Richard Howell, of La Harpe as Secretary, and Lowell Painter, Terre Haute township. The trustees appointed Wendell Helmers as Treasurer of the La Harpe Fire Protection District and Leland (Mike) White as District Fire Marshall.
Later, M.F. Kern was President, Wayne Elston, Secretary, and James Rich served. M.F. Kern retired as trustee in 1987.
Former trustees who have served the District were: Lowell Painter, Bob Jackson, Joe Spangler, Brian Mynatt, and Shawn Cortelyou.
The present trustees are: Ron Mellinger, President, Steve Painter, Secretary, and Tom Hasten.
The charter members of the La Harpe Fire Protection District were: John Quivey, Wendell Claycomb, William Bundy, Claude Overhulser, Jim Howd,Sr., Max Dunblazier, Don Stevens, Harold Bowen, Junior Bowen, Keith Bowen, Dean Patterson, Clyde Stevens, Art Reed, Marion Stauffer, Lyle Traser, Bill Cox, Glen Wright, Allen Winters, Roy St. Clair, Richard Cadle, Merrill Dunham, Jr., Charlie Butterfield, Don Smyser, Jim Gordon, Henry Parson, and Charles Hartweg.
Mike White served as District Fire Marshall until 1959, then the trustees appointed Dean Beals. Dean served until 1969. At that time, the trustees appointed Dean (Dutch) Patterson, who served until 1988. Joe Kurtz worked as custodian for many years. Other former Fire Marshalls have been Terry Housewright, Roger Jackson, Max Quivey and Greg Smith. Jerry Brown is now the District Fire Marshall and the 8th one in 63 years.
Two firemen, John Quivey and Wendell Helmers, retired after forty years of service. John went on the City Department in May 1939 and retired in July 1979. Wendell went on the City Department in December 1944 and retired in December 1986, at which time Barbara Berlet (his cousin) was appointed to take his place. She is now retiring after serving 27 years. Kasey Livingston has been selected to take her place. John L. Link has also retired, after serving on the fire department for 40 years.
Starting with a two-bay station, two trucks, and 30 volunteer firemen, La Harpe District expanded with construction of a station in Terre Haute, six miles to the north, in 1956, which was manned by 15 volunteer fire fighters. In 1970, a two-bay station was built in the community of Fountain Green, nine miles south of La Harpe, which was also manned by 15 volunteer fire fighters.
The first fire station of La Harpe Fire District was expanded with the addition of two additional bays, which now houses 4 trucks, two of which are pumpers, one 1,000 gallon tanker, and one equipment van. Fire fighters also volunteered the labor for the construction of two meeting rooms on the station.
Members of the La Harpe Department at that time were: Bill Hasten, Dean Beals, Don Link, Country Chief, Richard Grisham, Larry Jones, William Burt, Boyd Mueller, Clyde Copeland, John L. Link, City Chief, Richard A . Smith, Ted Anderson, Assistant Chief, Larry Housewright, Kenneth Brown, Assistant Chief, Roger Jackson, Max Quivey, Tom Mueller, Hank Snyder, Jack Parrish, Assistant Chief, Randy Johnson, Mike Mealey, Rodney Cratsenberg, Larry Mynatt, Gerald Burford, Luther Parrish, Todd Stevens, Karl Yard, Tom Link, Ira Willey, Richard Helmers, Ray St. Clair, Robert Shutwell, and Edward Gebhardt.
Additional equipment was added on to the two other stations of the district. Terre Haute began with two-bay stations in 1956. Later, the volunteer fire fighters built on a meeting room. Then, in 1983, another bay was added to the station.
Terre Haute began with only one truck, but in 1960 a 1,000 gallon tanker was added. In 1975, a four wheel drive truck with a skid unit, was added to use in grass fire situations.
Members of the Terre Haute Department then were: Don Smith, Wendell Bright, Gene Ingram, Cliff Ingram, Cliff Eckhardt, Ross Mesecher, Sr., George Reed, Leland Bennett, Ralph Mowen, Ralph Torrance, Rich Zatteau, Don Hamilton, Steve Painter, Roy Painter, Robert Painter, Assistant Chief, Dale Thompson, Bob Reed, Chief, Jeff Love, Gary Butler, Dallas Neff, Wayne Elston, James Smith, John Bruyn, Ralph Todd, James Todd, Mike McKinnon and Albert Renken.
Fountain Green began with a two-bay station. Later, a meeting room was built on to the station by volunteer fire fighters. Fountain Green had only one pumper to start with, but a few years later a 1,000 gallon tanker was added.
Members of the Fountain Green Department were: Edwin Meyers, Chief, Robert Jackson, Robert Mc Connell, Richard, Assistant Chief, Robert Tillman, Randy Tillman, Ronnie Smith, A.C. Spangler, Marion Barr, Ricky Johnson, Rex Johnson, Tom Hasten, Bobby Knowles, Lee Walker, Toodles Shumate, and Steve Eaves.
The Fire District now has 11 trucks, 4 pumpers, 2- 2,000 gallon tankers, 1- 1,000 gallon tanker, 2- 4x4 brush trucks, 1 mini pumper/squad truck, and 1 van.
All trucks are equipped with radios, with the base station located at the La Harpe Station. The Terre Haute and Fountain Green stations both have a 15,000 gallon water supply.
The bell, which served as the fire alarm whenever a fire occurred, is now located at the La Harpe station. It was purchased by the city of La Harpe in 1906, from Mc Neely and Co. Bell Founder, West Troy, NY. The cost of the bell was $321.41. It weighed 1,100 pounds. The mayor of La Harpe at the time was C.A. Knappenberger and the Fire Chief was J.C. Travis.
Present Members of the La Harpe Fire Protection District are:
La Harpe: Jerry Brown, Fire Marshall, Derek Helmers, City Chief, Chad Burt, Country Chief, Dan Carpenter, Assistant City Chief, Austin Johnson, Assistant Country Chief, Wes Carpenter, Training Officer, Bill Burt, Max Quivey, Wayne Humphrey, R.A. Smith, Wayne Bray, Eric Palmer, Gene Reische, Willo Carpenter, Gary Jackson, Larrick Allaman, Justin Livington, Rob Willdrick, Jason Siegworth, Cole Thompson, Shaun Thompson, Dovetta Helmers, Jana Finley, Brian Covert, Mitch Beals, Seth Haines, Bart Thompson, Alan Streicher, Jason Torrence, and Amber Pence.
Terre Haute: Bob Reed, Chief, Jeff Love, Assistant Chief, Steve Painter, Rowen Ziegler, Gary Hobby, Chane Combites, Matt Mitchell, Nick Troutman, Shane Painter, and David Lovell.
Fountain Green: Ricky Johnson, Chief, Doug Palmer, Assistant Chief, Alfie Williams, Assistant Chief, Larry Palmer, Seve Evans, Ned Palmer, Tom Todd, Darren Spangler, Dan Spangler, Justin Akers, Phil Blythe, Alex Blythe, Steve Eaves, and Kurt Dittmer.
La Harpe Fire Protection District - Station #1 La Harpe
La Harpe Fire Protection District - Fountain Green Station
La Harpe Fire Protection District - Terre Haute Station